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British Touring Cars Pioneer CO2 Test Programme

A pioneering new initiative is underway at the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship in order to make the sport greener.

All competing cars must have their CO2 emissions tested, and the emissions are now at the same levels as their showroom counterparts.

The next stage of the plan is to reduce the emissions to below that of the road going versions of the cars.

This is the first time that any form of motorsport has introduced a programme to test CO2 levels. The easy option is normally to use biofuels, however that has already been happening for a while in the BTCC series.

The greening initiative doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effect on the sport, judging by the size of the crowds at Oulton Park this weekend.

BTCC Series Director Alan Gow explained to Green-Car-Guide that the idea for the testing programme was arrived at in a ‘shower’ moment.

Alan Gow

He also described how the testing works in more detail. The testing is carried out with the engines running under a high speed drive cycle, as opposed to the normal road going emissions testing scenario, and the showroom versions of the cars are compared under the same conditions.

Initially the CO2 emissions for the racing cars were higher than the production cars, however the engineers had to find solutions to reduce the emissions to match the road cars – which mainly involved tweaks to the engine management systems.

Testing CO2 emissions

Unfortunately BTCC can’t reveal the CO2 levels, as that would give away information that the manufacturers wouldn’t necessarily want in the public domain. However Alan Gow is keen to stress the point that racing cars are inherently efficient.

It’s hoped that the pioneering lead taken with CO2 emissions testing by the BTCC will influence other major forms of motorsport on a global scale.

The emissions are measured using a rolling road drive-cycle specifically developed for BTCC race cars at Land Rover’s state-of-the-art test laboratory.

The BTCC initiative is fully endorsed by Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS), a Government-sponsored sector initiative whose aim is to put energy efficiency at the heart of modern motor sport. It says the BTCC’s CO2 measures are the most relevant it has seen. Also central to this programme has been Horiba Instruments Limited, the biggest supplier of emissions testing devices in Europe.

Cars running to the BTCC’s latest set of two-litre technical regulations (Super 2000) include the BMW 320si, Chevrolet Lacetti, Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic, SEAT Leon and Vauxhall Vectra.

Alan Gow was praiseworthy of the engineers in motorsport, saying that this initiative is a great demonstration of their ability to tackle challenges head-on, and that this is just the beginning of a long-term strategy from the BTCC.

So what was the outcome of the CO2-tested touring cars race at the sun-soaked Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire this weekend?

Colin Turkington in his bright orange Team RAC BMW 3 Series won the first two of the three races, and developing a lead in the second race by a huge margin, while fighting off challenges from Jason Plato. This was despite his car having to carry extra weight as a result of his success, as per BTCC regulations.

By mid-afternoon those two wins had moved Turkington past Matt Neal to the top of the Drivers’ standings – the first time in his eight years in the BTCC that he had led the championship.

But a non-score by Turkington in race three and a vital third place for Neal – that followed seventh and fourth places in the first two races – was sufficient to move the Vauxhall driver back to the head of the table.

So Turkington had to share victory with James Thompson after three races at the end of the day. And Matt Neal still continued to lead the Drivers’ championship – albeit by the greatly reduced margin of just two points.

Colin Turkington still leads the Independent Drivers competition with 126 points, ahead of Jason Plato with 108 points.

In terms of teams, VX Racing is currently in the lead with 216 points, with Team RAC (BMW) second with 142 points, and Airwaves BMW third with 112 points.

Team RAC (BMW) lead the Independent Teams with 128 points, ahead of Airwaves BMW, a close second with 127 points.

BTCC heads to the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire next for its fifth round of 2009 on Sunday 14 June.